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March 18, 2022

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In Court

Man receives suspended prison sentence for exposing public to asbestos

Lee Charles has received a suspended prison sentence for deceiving the public about his ability to handle asbestos safely.

asbestos, serpentine fibersBetween 2017 and 2019, Lee Charles acted as a de facto director of Lincs Demolition Ltd in securing profitable jobs. He did this by marketing himself as a registered asbestos-removal specialist.

When disturbed, asbestos is a hazardous substance and carcinogenic, something Lee was allegedly aware of. He also claimed to be registered with the Environmental Agency; he was neither a specialist nor registered.

Certain types of asbestos were outlawed in the UK in the 1980’s, with its use being completely banned in 1999.

Charles pleaded guilty to lying to customers in Abingdon, Doncaster, Melton Mowbray, Nottinghamshire, Stockport, Stourbridge and Wellington, and giving false paperwork to disguise his deception.

Lincoln crown court heard how waste asbestos had been stashed in hired storage containers in Welbourn, Lincolnshire, just 200 meters from a school and close to a Girl Guide centre.

Charles told the owners of the space that he wanted to keep tools there. When he failed to pay the rent for the containers, the owners forced the locks and were confronted with the dangerous contents.

Once exposed, Charles, 40, abandoned the storage containers, moving his activities to an unpermitted waste site in Little Hale, near Sleaford. He continued to store asbestos unsafely, posing a risk to public health.

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, Recorder, Paul Mann, told Charles that he, “knew the regulatory regime well enough to know what he was doing was seriously wrong.”

However, he said that he was “just” able to suspend the sentence for a period of two years so that Charles could pay the Environmental Agency’s costs. Charles will also be required to pay compensation to the owners of the Welbourn containers for the costs they incurred in the cleaning up of the site.

Charles was told that he must return to Lincoln crown court in June for consideration of financial orders, including the potential confiscation of his proceeds of crime.

Paul Salter, Waste Crime Officer for the Environment Agency in Lincolnshire, said: “Lee Charles’ crimes were not just illegal but dangerous.

“In spite of repeated warnings and advice from the Environment Agency, Lincs Demolition, under Charles’ direction, put both the environment and public health at risk.

“Asbestos when inhaled causes serious health problems, the careless storage of which presents a significant hazard, with a risk to life.

“Taking Charles’ avoidance of costs into consideration, for appropriate staff training to safe storage, Lincs Demolition avoided business costs of at least £50,000.

“It’s imperative that all waste businesses have the correct permits in place to protect themselves, the environment and the public. We support businesses trying to do the right thing, only issuing enforcement notices, and penalising businesses as a last resort.

Asbestos podcast

Listen, as Dr Mavis Nye talks about her work as a campaigner for the dangers of asbestos exposure and the lack of awareness that still exists, and how living with Mesothelioma impacts her life.

Sleep practitioner Lisa Artis also provides her top tips to improve your sleep.

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